Besides seeing the pumping and high stepping Grambling State band, which helped to attract the "sell-out" crowd of 31,681, fans got to see San Jose State win a season opener for the second straight year, something the Spartans had not accomplished since 1987-88.
San Jose State's 29-0 victory over Grambling on Saturday brought back memories of the late 80's and early 90's. But to state that the Spartans are destined to a "return to glory" may be a bit premature to state.
After all, Grambling is a Division I- AA program, and the Spartans' offense did not run up and down the field against the Tigers, scoring 16 of its points in the final period. Plus, the Spartans committed two turnovers.
Still, the Spartans might have found a running back in Yonus Davis, a freshman from Oakland, and their defense got its first shutout since 1988, a noteworthy accomplishment for a team that has struggled mightily on defense in recent years.
"It's a big deal," said Spartans safety Gerald Jones, who returned an interception for a touchdown, "but it came against a Division I-AA team. They have ability and all, but if we do it against the WAC or SEC, then it will be something.
"We did an OK job, but for us to go into the Swamp, we have to pick it up."
The Spartans' defense will face a significantly tougher test next weekend in Gainesville, Fla., when they go against Florida, but this game was well worthwhile.
The Grambling band was reason enough. Virtually everyone stayed in their seats at halftime to watch the flamboyant band, and the stadium was still packed a full 40 minutes after the game to watch the postgame performance, which featured the drum corps. Even the San Jose State players and coaches stayed on the field to watch.
"I wish we had something like that," Jones said.
It provided a different kind of environment for a San Jose State football game.
"I'd guess that's probably one of the best atmospheres they've had for a football game in a long time," Grambling coach Doug Williams said.
During the 60 minutes of football, the Spartans got some things accomplished. The win brought San Jose State a little closer to its first bowl berth since 1990.
The Spartans have a long way to go to get the five more wins to become bowl eligible, but they got one under their belts because wins against Division I-AA opponents can be counted toward eligibility once every four years.
And the Tigers are no patsies. Former Super Bowl MVP Williams has turned the storied program from Louisiana into a Division I-AA power, and Sports Illustrated made the Tigers its preseason No. 1 team in that division.
Add the Spartans' first sellout since a Nov. 17, 1990, win over Fresno State, and you have a successful day.
Spartans quarterback Scott Rislov had an efficient, if unspectacular, day, completing 24 of 38 passes for 321 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. The Spartans are determined to improve a running game that did little last season, and Davis, from Oakland's Skyline High School, rolled up 69 yards on the ground and another 69 yards on six receptions.
But the numbers seemed to exaggerate San Jose State's effectiveness against the Tigers.
The Spartans jumped ahead with 5:13 left in the first quarter when Leon Pinky turned his first career reception into his first career touchdown. Pinky,
who originally signed with Tennessee before attending junior college, made a one-handed catch on a Rislov pass, then powered his way 20 yards for the score.
The Spartans made it 10-0 early in the second period on a 43-yard field goal by new kicker Jeff Carr, who tied a school record with three field goals.
San Jose State had opened the season with a bang, as Kendrick Starling returned the opening kickoff 71 yards, but could not sustain the momentum offensively.
Grambling's highly touted quarterback, Bruce Eugene, had some success at the outset, finding holes in the Spartans' secondary with a no-huddle, five- wideout offense. Once the Spartans started blitzing, though, the Tigers had a tougher time getting yardage.
Eugene completed eight of his first 10 passes for 94 yards, then hit on just three of 12 passes for 15 yards the rest of the half.
(CC: Curtis for portions of story content)